Whether you are a freelancer or entrepreneur who works at home full time, an employee who works remotely for some or all of the work week, or just someone who needs a space for dealing with bills, taxes, and all the attendant paperwork of daily life, a well designed home office can contribute to your productivity and even physical health. The more hours you spend working in a home office, the more important ergonomics can become to avoid eyestrain and musculoskeletal problems.
Regulations and Zoning
If you work quietly at home on your own computer as a sole proprietor, zoning and work safety regulations are unlikely to affect you. However, if you are a working remotely for a larger company, regulations concerning occupational safety actually are applicable, including ones regarding ergonomics such as properly adjusted, sturdy chairs and desks and task-appropriate lighting. For any business that requires customers to visit your home office, frequent deliveries, or which creates noises or noxious fumes, you should check your local zoning regulations. Many business activities are not permitted in purely residential neighborhoods.
Choosing a Space
If a significant part of your employment involves working from home, your ideal space is a separate room that will provide privacy and freedom from noise and other distractions. If you are using an open area such as a dining nook or part of a family room, consider using dividers, shelving units, or other furniture elements to clearly demarcate work space from living space and to signal to family members that you are working and should not be interrupted. Although some people are happy transforming basements into home offices, if you spend several hours a day working at home, a brighter, more cheerful space might be a better idea. When considering space requirement, remember to take into account storage space as well as work space.
Technology and Electricity
Many home offices require a plethora of electronic devices, including computers, printers, phones, answering machines, shredders, scanners, cameras, and postage scales. Especially if you live in an older home, you should have an electrician ensure that your home electrical system can handle the demands of these devices and avoid overloading outlets. Cables and power cords should be clearly labeled and organized and be routed so that they are not tripping hazards. Install a surge protector and uninterruptible power supply to protect your equipment.
Spending long hours working on a computer can cause several types of injury, including back problems, eyestrain, and repetitive stress injuries. Investing in adequate lighting and looking away from your computer every 20 minutes can reduce the risk of eyestrain. A sturdy office chair with lumbar support will reduce the strain on your back. If your main computer system is a laptop, invest in a docking station to which you can attach a separate keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Your monitor should be placed at eye level and keyboard so that your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to get up from your desk at least once an hour and walk around and stretch briefly. It not only is good for your health, but may improve your ability to concentrate and be productive.
Important Government Resources
The Canadian government offers several useful web resources for people who work at home, covering relevant regulations and offering useful practical tips.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety; Telework / Telecommuting
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